Sooooo... Fukudome. I'll let the widget do the talking:
I hate looking at monthly splits, because there's so much noise and you can back yourself into a corner with selective endpoints real quickly, but since everyone's talking about how he's "hit a wall" or somesuch I figured I should address it.
A few things stand out:
- His line drive rate seems fine, but his batting average on balls in play seems to have dropped in August. That's something I expect to correct itself. You keep hitting line drives and eventually the ball will drop into play.
- He's not swinging at more pitches, which is contrary to what I hear everybody saying about him. He's still taking pitches. But his contact on pitches he is swinging at is down.
Remember - these are small samples of performance grouped by essentially arbitrary endpoints. I suppose the next question is, are pitchers pitching him differently? That's next time.
We have seven weeks to go before the big dance starts, and comparing 2008 to other past Cubs years, this team has a relatively good chance of making it there. That's one way to avoid pissing off Karma by using the "p" word that rhymes with "gheyoffs". Most of us HERE at this point in time are forward-thinking enough fans to realize that October roster composition is the key issue for the Cubs.
By far, the bullpen is the biggest area of concern, but I do not come today to offer the optimal bullpen recipe. Only the fetching Sarah Wood knows how much her hubby hurts, and whether he can finish the year as our closer. Only the theoretically fetching Mrs. Howry can know whether her hubby is tired, or toast. Only the also theoretically fetching Mrs. Marmol (or, based on input from Kyle, assorted St. Louis casino floozies) know whether or not her hubby has enough sack hangin' in his BVDs to be able to throw that sick twisted slidepiece again and again in the biggest situations.
So I cannot in good conscience come out here today and instruct Messrs. Hendry and Pinella in Optimal Cubs Bullpen Construction.
I also cannot instruct the above-mentioned gentlemen on what to do with K. Fooky. The Dome has earned a firm, warm spot on the bench based on his recent offensive woes. But if you do that, you cripple your outfield defense, thus your overall defense. I am not going to go through the permutations here, but I defy you to suggest an alternative defensive arrangement that wouldn't be a gigantic step backward. Furthermore, while your typical Anglo or Latin redass might respond one way to a benching, I honestly don't know how the Dome would react. All I know is that Japanese think WAY different from us. That's not wrong or right, just different. That is why Uncle Lou is being paid the large bux.
In conclusion, I come today to gently suggest that the 25th man on the roster should not be Daryle Ward anymore. It should be Micah Hofpauir. Micah does everything Ward does, a little bit better. He is a bit better hitter, a bit better runner, and a bit better fielder. Granted he still sucks everywhere but 1B, he is no Lou Brock on the basepaths, and he really does not figure in our longterm plans.
But when going to the big dance, don't you want to bring the absolute best dancers you have? Micah > Daryle, so wish Mr. Ward well with his degerative disks and his hugh jass and send him on his way.
A small gesture, perhaps. But I know my limitations, and this is one area I know I am correct in, and I cannot believe this is still an issue. Uncle Lou wants "veteran presence"? What the hell is Lassie Edmonds, then? One guy hanging onto his career by his fingernails is enough...
There was a point in time this season where it appeared every time Kosuke Fukudome came to the dish that we needed a baserunner in the worst way, and he always got on base some way or another. Of course, there was a point this season when the whole damn team was getting on base every time they strode to the plate. Those days are long gone, which sucks, but is quite expected. Even a roster of Babe Ruths, Barroid Bondses and Grampa PooHoles is gonna make an out more than half the time.
The Fooker, he spoilt us. The last month or so, he's seemed far more human, and everyone from the beat writers to my lovely wife is starting to pile on to the fact that he is struggling. But I am not worried, which is quite contrary to my usual Cubs stance of gloom-and-doom. Why?
Because, I predicted this long ago. All fast-starting rookies end up having to make the "second adjustment" after the league makes its initial adjustments against him. This is no different, even for a 30 year old Japanese Central League MVP. Now, I understand, for the money he was paid and the pressures he has already withstood in his career, the dropoff should be less, right? Yeah, probably.
He hasn't exactly dropped off the back of the truck, you know? He is still hitting over .290, his OBP is still .400 (which if I told you in March that he would have a .400 OBP for the year, you would have soiled yerself in excitement) and he still picks it cleen in RF. He does look Baaad when he strikes out with that ghey little spin, but hey.
Every major Japanese star from Ichiro to Matsui to the dude in the Bay who is now rippin' it up has had to adjust to the parks, to the demands. Kosuke has had to deal with batting 5th (a power position he was woefully overmatched at), a brief stay in his rightful home in the 2 hole, followed by the experiment at the top of the order, where he has done his due diligence in taking pitches like a good leadoff man should do. I think he's been totally shafted by a few pitch calls, which has caused him to expand his strike zone.
I dunno, maybe the umpiring, like the populace, was more homogenous back home, and he certainly by the end of his career there earned the respect of home plate umps and carved out "his own" strikezone. That hasn't happened here yet...all these umps see is a Sports Illustrated coverboy who is not much more than a slappy. Ichiro probably whipps his ass in a home-run derby. But if he is the player I think he is, and the player the Cubs are paying for, he will re-adjust.
I'm just saying people need to chill on the Dome. Things are bad right now, guys are hurt, others are psycho (Pie? Hill? Hello?), and some are just plain gone. What IS the deal with Ramirez, anyway? The Sun-Times reports he is home with a new baby, but every other news source in the world, including his own team, will only admit to "Family Issues". I don't know why the Son of A-Ram couldn't have been born in the States, and it is supremely selfish to put us a man down for an entire series, but why all the euphenisms? If he is out having a baby, why not just say so?
Finally, I mentioned psychos just now, and Colin just addressed what appears to be a real hatchet job on Felix DessertPastry down in tha AZ. Some media is reporting that he IS living up to some people's advance billing as Corey, Jr., being pissy at extended spring training. Colin finds out that isn't quite the case, fine. Then Colin concludes with his treatise on the question of character in athletic endeavors which, hmmm. He's our numbers guy, and a fine one he be.
Certainly there are the Roses and Bondses and Clemenses of the world, and there are many other examples of fine ballplayers who weren't fine men. But in their own way, they kind of are fine men, because at least they have the mental fortitude to focus on their craft and prodigiously produce which in turn helps everyone else win. It's the guys like the Corey Pattersons and Rich Hills of the world, who have physical talents but have character 'flaws' that override their abilities. With Patterson, it is his belief that he is a home-run hitter that has caused him from realizing his full potential. He has rejected instruction, although in hindsight perhaps the instruction offered wasn't the best in class.
We as Cubs fans tend to worry inordinately about Pie, for several reasons: the dearth of quality position players the organization has produced; his obvious speed and strength; the hype that has preceded him; the example shown by his predecessor; and his relative inability to express himself to an English-speaking fanbase. It is unfair, in that most of these are not his doing. It may just be that he is a guy with some speed and strength who was good enough once to tear up AAA, but may not be able to make the jump up. It may also be that he is still too young, although there are others his age and younger who have thrived in the league.
We're just overvigilant, hypersensitive to any possible bump in the road, and starving for a winner. This is possibly too much pressure for ANYBODY to overcome, whether your last name is Pie, Hill, Ramirez, Fukudome, or even Pinella. I have said this all along - the Cubs team that eventually climbs the mountain is going to have to do more heavy lifting than a team of any other name. The karmic weight of Cubness exists. It is real, no matter how many new managers, coaches, and players deny it in their introductory press conferences.
The Tribune reports that Sweet Uncle Lou will be making one of his legendary lineup changes. From this point forward, until Alfonso Soriano returns from what can best be described as a broken hand, Koss-Kay Fook-ooh-dough-may will be batting leadoff. At least, that's how it'll be until Piniella changes his mind, as Goat Friend Paul Sullivan notes in his most recent blog.
Some people are shocked to see Fukudome in the leadoff spot, as it will be a waste of his epic power*. Not to mention the fact that Fooky doesn't draw many walks**, nor does he have much speed***. Point of fact, it makes absolutely no sense at all****, and I will be sending a letter seething with frustration and disgust to the Cubs in order to voice - you guessed it - my frustration and disgust*****. Hmm, is anybody else seeing stars in this paragraph?
(*5 homeruns on pace for 12.
**On pace for 104, OBP of .403
***6 steals in 8 attempts, on pace for 14
****It makes total sense
*****I'll be offering them up my firstborn in a Contract Format letter if they pledge to keep that foreign bloke there all year long)
In other shocking news that makes total sense, it turns out that the Cardinals suck, and, yes, I'm feeling very silly tonight. I shall go celebrate it by watching Futurama and falling asleep at 8:10.*
(*My nickname is Captain Excitement**
**It used to be Admiral Excitement, but I got demoted)
One last thought - I was on Jon Miller's show today, but I got so caught up at work doing the job they pay me for that I didn't have time to blog about it. Which is okay, because Jon totally schooled me live on air when I said "I haven't caluclated it since the game last night, but I think the Cubs are on pace for 103 or 104 games," to which Jon replied "well, the Cubs haven't played since last night," for which I wept live on the air. Yep, that's me, radio gold.